A pantheon of new regionally themed games has Bally Technologies injecting fresh energy into its Asian markets
Bally Technologies is riding high right now on a wave of new premium product and wide-area progressive launches, and the impact is being felt in a big way on the slot giant’s global markets.
Sales to international customers accounted for a robust 17% of Bally’s new-unit shipments during a record fiscal third quarter that saw total revenues hit a record US$259 million on record year-on-year sales of systems ($71.3 million, +25%) and WAPs ($102 million, +40%).
And if you’ve seen Michael Jackson King of Pop moon-walking in increasing numbers across Macau’s slot floors—and this powerful package of sights, sounds and feature-rich progressive game content is all but impossible to miss—you’ve got an idea of how serious Bally is about expanding its presence in Asia.
In fact, the company now has studios on three continents designing and developing games tailored for the region, led by a development team in India dedicated entirely to creating content for Macau and greater Asia.
“We’ve come a long way in the last 12 months,” says Kurt Gissane, who works out of Macau as the company’s senior director and managing director for Asia-Pacific. “We’ve got a lot more of a regional focus, an international focus, as a company.”
Bally is going several steps further as well, soliciting feedback from casino operators into the R&D process and inviting groups of players from Macau to test drive some of the latest games prior to release. A first for Bally, the strategy was launched late last year and was followed in December by two days of frank discussions with key customers from the region, similar to the on-site user conferences Bally employs with great success in the States.
Michael Jackson II
“We asked them, what do you like about Bally, what can we do better, that kind of thing,” explains Mr Gissane. “And we sat down and listened.”
His pride was evident at G2E Asia last month, where he and Srini Raghavan, senior vice president APAC & Africa and managing director, India, were able to show off the most extensive display of dual-language Asian- and Chinese-themed slots in the company’s history, covering a wide range of denominations and math models—Chinese Zodiac, Perfect 8, Heavenly Empress and Koi Treasures, to name some of the standouts—and highlighted by Zhi Nu, which hasn’t been released yet and is already one of Macau’s most talked-about new titles.
“We couldn’t be prouder,” attests Mr Raghavan.
Zhi Nu, designed by New York-based High 5 Games, takes as its point of departure a rapidly maturing core of Macau players whose appetite for big wins is growing with their increasing comfort with machine gaming. Installed on Bally’s workhorse Pro Series V32, it’s a five-reel, 50-line linked progressive spiced with four prize levels and three free-game triggers scattered anywhere on the middle three reels. The theme, that of the weaving goddess of the title, daughter of the heavenly Jade Emperor, whose love for a mortal he punishes by separating the ill-fated couple among the stars, is one of the most enduring in Chinese mythology. Three more titles are to follow on the link, similarly drawn from the country’s abundant romantic lore.
Interestingly, Zhi Nu is in part the product of those December operator sessions.
“What was great was we showed a concept stage of the game, and we took their feedback and made changes. That’s why we’re so excited to show it here,” said Mr Gissane, speaking from the show floor last month. “Although it’s not completed yet, that was of good use to us. When they come through and say, ‘I remember how you said we should change this or do that,’ we’re able to show them.”
Some of the new dual-language titles—Star Signs, Zodiac Fortune and Koi Treasures—will be available on the celebrated Pro Curve cabinet, whose innovative convex LCD emulates spinning reels. Chinese Zodiac, which invites players to choose their favorite astrological animal to lock wilds, offers the flexibility of both the V22/22 Upright and V22/26 Slant cabinets.
Following up on the popularity of the Cash Wizard progressive is Cash Wizard Tiki Magic, featuring dazzling 1,080-pixel animation and a new character, Ms. Magic, who leads players through an enchanted forest filled with new bonus and “touch, drag and fling” features on their way to a chance at three jackpots.
Bally also wants to see what kind of traction its bonus-packed NASCAR near-area progressive will gain with Asian players. “It’s a very US-centric brand,” Mr Gissane acknowledges, “but I think in the Philippines it will definitely work.”
Not that he’s ruling out any of the surrounding markets. “It’s a good game with a lot of meaty features,” he notes. “The brand doesn’t necessarily relate, but it has enough entertainment that I think it will be successful in the region. We’ll see. But it’s definitely an amazing game, it’s feature-rich, it’s got the Surround Sound Chair, so it’s got that whole player experience.”
Speaking of the Surround Sound, the company is already brainstorming the release of Michael Jackson II. But that’s not surprising. As Mr Gissane says, “It has been one of the most successful products we’ve ever launched into Asia.”
If the prototype shown on the show floor at The Venetian last month is any indication, Bally is destined for continued success in Asia.
Kurt Gissane, Bally’s senior director and managing director for Asia-Pacific, and Srini Raghavan, senior vice president APAC & Africa and managing director, India,show off the Inside Asian Gaming Supplier Awards 2013 trophy for Michael Jackson, named “Best Slot Innovation”.